Detroit Tigers Newsletter: The 2020 season had two scoops of EVERYTHING

Detroit Free Press

Ryan Ford
 
| Detroit Free Press

Hello, and welcome to the final Detroit Tigers Newsletter of the year. (We think. Based on this kooky season, who knows?)

Well, they got to 58 games.

That’s more than seemed likely in April, or even June. And while it’s not quite as many games as almost everyone else got — 60 would have been nice — it’s better than none. The Tigers finished 23-35, which equates to 64-98 over a 162-game season. It’s not good, but it’s better than 47-114.

In fact, for such a short season, it seemed to have a little bit of everything, like one of those variety packs of Kellogg’s cereals.

Frosted Mini-Wheats: Opening Day, even without fans in the seats or on the streets of Downtown Detroit. A classic taste, with a classic tribute to “Mr. Tiger.” Enough to satisfy your sweet tooth at first, but then it got kinda gross, right about when the Royals scored six runs in the fourth inning off the Tigers bullpen.

Rice Krispies: The sweep of the Pirates in early August. Full of “snap, crackle and pop” — 30 runs in three games! — but again, a little watered down when you realized it was the PIRATES, inheritors of the Tigers’ “Worst Team in Baseball” crown.

Froot Loops: After a couple years of following Toucan Sam, er, Al Avila, in the hunt for treasured prospects, we finally got to dig in to that Frooty, Loopy goodness that was the debuts of Isaac Paredes, Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize. A true sugar high, followed by a disastrous crash. (But you’re still excited for your next taste, as the Freep’s Evan Petzold looks ahead at the prospects for Skubal and Mize in 2021.)

Corn Flakes: That nine-game losing streak, from Aug. 11-20. You really didn’t want that, but well, it came with the pack and somebody had to choke it down.

Apple Jacks: Ah, that six-game winning streak from Aug, 25 to Sept. 1. Kinda sweet like the Froot Loops, but a little less sweet, and the crash was a little less harsh, thanks to Victor Reyes and Willi Castro. (Castro’s unlikely Rookie of the Year candidacy picked up steam here, as Our Man Petzold notes here for subscribers.)

Frosted Flakes: It was nothing fancy, but other teams’ crashes left the Tigers, for a couple of crazy days, a couple games under .500 in September and just a game out of a playoff spot. Quoth Tony the Tiger, “They’re Grr… more competitive than expected thanks to an expanded postseason field!” (They shortened it for the commercials.)

Corn Pops: The sudden departure of Ron Gardenhire and elevation of Lloyd McClendon as interim manager last weekend. I mean, it’s an old favorite, dating all the way back to 2006, and it’s certainly not Corn Flakes, but you’re not buying a box of Corn Pops on its own and maybe we could look outside the Jim Leyland Variety Pack for the next Tigers manager? (Also, Miguel Cabrera started to hit for power again AND talk to the media, including with Our Man Petzold here.)

Raisin Bran: The last weekend of the year, when even after the Tigers were eliminated, we were keeping an eye on the games in St. Louis and San Francisco to see if we’d get one more sweet treat: A doubleheader at Comerica Park with the playoffs on the line (for one team, at least). Unfortunately, we ate all the raisins first and were left with a soggy bowl of flakes. And a “thanks for the memories” start from Jordan Zimmermann.

But now, we’ve finally used up all the milk in the fridge, and dirtied a few dishes while we’re at it; breakfast is over and it’s time for something a little more filling. Brunch with the Lions, anyone?

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Moving on to 2021

While it was nice to have a team over .500 in September — even if it was just one game, and for Sept. 1 only — it would be nicer to have an actual playoff contender. And that starts now … or five days after the World Series ends, when teams can actually make moves. Our Man Petzold broke down how this offseason, from the manager search to free agency to properly assessing the short seasons for the multitude of rookies who debuted this summer, will play a big role in next season and beyond. (Read it here.)

Feeling a draft?

As if 2020 didn’t have enough delays, there was the announcement Thursday that the 2021 MLB draft will be pushed back to July 11-13, 2021, ostensibly to coordinate with the All-Star Game festivities in Atlanta. The Tigers’ September plummet — just four wins in their final 18 games — dropped them all the way to the No. 3 pick in next year’s draft. That is, if commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t decide to alter the determination process, in light of this year’s … unusual nature. Our Man Petzold has a look at some of Manfred’s options, including the one Al Avila is hoping for, here.

’21 or bust

Skubal and Mize aren’t the only Tigers with their eyes on the future. Some others:

Christin Stewart: Has he (and some other former top prospects) already been lapped in development?

Spencer Turnbull: He’s the ace now, right? Well, he’s still got one thing to work on …

Michael Fulmer: The numbers were bad. Like, 8.78 ERA bad. But he stayed healthy, so that’s a win.

Mark your calendar!

The playoffs — eight teams in each league, with seven of the 10 Central division teams, including the one with Nick Castellanos that went 3-3 against the Tigers this season! — start Tuesday at noon. Wednesday features eight games, and Thursday could feature a ridiculous eight elimination games. As for the Tigers, well, they’re off till February, with the first exhibition game on Feb. 26. Check out the schedule here.

Tigers birthdays: Rob Deer (60 on Tuesday), Travis Demeritte (26 on Wednesday), Danny Worth (35 on Wednesday), Carlos Guillen (45 on Wednesday), Jose Lima (48 on Wednesday), Victor Reyes (26 on Oct. 5), Rod Allen (61 on Oct. 5).

TL;DR

As crazy as it might be to think about the Tigers going from a de facto 98-loss season to the playoffs, that’s essentially what the Miami Marlins — with bah-Gawd Matt Joyce playing in 46 games — did this season. Last year: 105 losses. This year, the No. 6 seed in the NL. (And they actually would have been a wild-card team, or at least playing a one-game playoff to be a wild-card team, under the old 10-team postseason format.)

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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